Friday, July 02, 2004

Getting the Senior Pass

I have been putting this off and putting it off, not wanting to take Anya on the T. Usually I just drop my 35 cents in the slot at the station and go on through, but sometimes a bored attendant will decide to try to trap a fake senior using the low fare without the pass, and I was caught, coming back from mediation. I was of course very annoyed--won't a driver's license tell them the same thing, but now I feel I should get the pass. I'm sure it will be a total drag to have to go to Back Bay station and change subways especially with the baby.

I am very nervous with the idea as well as the reality when I reach the Porter Square. I wheel the baby around trying to build up courage. I ask the attendant about getting the senior pass hoping she will spur me on--people travel on the subway with babies all the time--but I haven't--it's the unknown--what if the train wrecks, the baby cries and is scared, the stairs and escalator too difficult to climb, the people crowded together so that the stroller has no room. She suggests the elevator installed for disabled people which the stroller can go on and I go there thinking I can always bail if things look bad. The elevator is small, dingy and stuffy, but I come out on the tracks below and wait for the train, constantly checking the baby to see that she's ok. She has the wide eyed stare of wonder and alertness she gets in new situations. The train comes screeching wheels on steel and roaring thunder engine bringing stale wind from the tunnel. I usually enjoy the subway but this is different. I have someone else to consider whose tender ears and eyes and psyche must be protected.

I push the stroller on and start to sit but see water dripping down from cooling system, making a mess on the seats and I move further down the car to dryness. The train starts with a lurch which scares Anya. I keep eye contact and keep talking to her telling her it is ok, which I am praying it is. A drunk is sitting across from us swaying in his seat and I feel I have this innocent, precious life which is being sullied by the crammed, dirty car, the air which has been breathed once too often. I keep my focus on her. She is fine. Even smiles at me.

Finally we reach Downtown crossing and the orange line and I wheel her off and look for the elevator and take it up, but discover that it has taken me to the wrong platform and after walking and walking with the stroller in the hallways and down corridors, I see I will have to climb endless stairs carrying the stroller or leave the subway station altogether. Trapped under the ground with Anya who is getting fussy and breathing soot, exposed to the poor, the homeless, the destitute, the uncaring crowd of workers and shoppers. At this point I go to the token station and explain about the senior pass and ask how to get to back bay--the lady sadly shakes her head at me. She calls over a very large, very black official with Station Inspector on his badge and he listens to my story and then says, "You take the baby; I'll take the stroller." I follow him up out of the lower depths and into sunlight and downtown Boston, surreal with Dunkin Donuts, department stores, photo shops, manikins in windows, the souvenir seller's cart and shoppers hurrying in all directions. We walk across the street. My rescuer stops and taps knuckles with a dreadlocked young man with his girlfriend, saying "Hey Bro catch you this weekend", his other persona revealed. We move on to the other orange line entrance and he lets me through the toll gate so I don't have to pay again. This huge guy, who has carried the stroller as if it were made of paper, is my hero and I try to tell him how thankful I am, but this duty is perhaps beneath him and he pays no mind.

At last we reach Back Bay. Anya is sleeping and I get my pass while the clerks eewwww and ahhh over the baby. A young mentally challenged boy is being helped by his grandmother to get student pass--she is poignantly fixing his collar and smoothing his hair--and I wait for my photo to be plasticized.

With Anya's eyes open we start back--now feeling very legal--and this time making sure I have the right elevator which smells of urine and has trash all over it, maybe homeless sleep in it. So when we get back to Porter Square I take the escalator which works much better, as I can hold the stroller up as we ascend.

Anya coos and gurbles to herself as we walk back up Mass ave. I have succeeded in braving the dreaded subway with a baby. She did not succumb to the lurching stops, the grunge and stale air.

After all that two days later I loose my card like a good muddle headed old person, but ride illegally while I wait until a day off before returning to get another. The new pass has a much better picture making me look younger, not at all my aging, demented self--which is some compensation for forgetfulness.

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